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World Press on Reaction To French anti-radicalism law: New Age Islam's Selection, 25 February 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

 25 February 2021

 ·         France’s Controversial ‘Separatism’ Bill

By Daniyal Talat

·         Why Has France’s Islamist Separatism Bill Caused Such Controversy?

By Cailey Griffin 

·         First English, Then American, and Now Muslim Francophobia

By Liaquat Ali Khan

·         Pakistan slams France's anti-radicalism bill, warns of 'serious repercussions'

By The Wion Editorial

·        ·         President Alvi and French laws

By Pakistan Today Editorial

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 France’s Controversial ‘Separatism’ Bill

 By Daniyal Talat

 February 23, 2021

 In his very first days at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to detail his views on secularism and Islam in a wide-ranging speech. It took more than three years for this to happen, with the much awaited speech actually taking place in October a week after a teacher was violently killed for revealing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during a lecture on freedom of expression. Macron said during his speech that “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, adding that there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”. Mr. Macron and his Parliament allies have described the bill as a reaction to the rise of Islamic separatism, which the President defines as a philosophy that seeks to create a parallel state in France where religious laws replace civil law.  Referring to the cartoons at a citizenship ceremony earlier and before the latest attacks, Macron defended the “right to blasphemy” as a fundamental freedom, even as he condemned “Islamic separatism.”

 

“To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticize, to mock, to caricature,” the president said. The proposed law allows religious associations and mosques to report more than €10,000 ($12,000) in international support and to sign a promise to uphold the French republican ideals in order to obtain state subsidies. The bill will also make it possible for the government to close down mosques, organizations and colleges that have been described as criticizing republican values. The controversial bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim people and enforcing limits on nearly every part of their lives. It allows government to oversee the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims. It also limits the schooling options of the Muslim community by prohibiting families from providing home education to children. The law also forbids people from selecting physicians on the grounds of gender for religious or other purposes and mandates a compulsory ‘secularism education’ on all elected officials. Physicians will either be charged or jailed under the law if they conduct a virginity test on girls. Critics argue the so-called “separatism law” is racist and threatens the 5.7 million-strong Muslim population in France, the highest in Europe. Its critics include the 100 imams, 50 teachers of Islamic sciences and 50 members of associations in France who signed an open letter against the “unacceptable” charter on 10 February.

 

A criminal act for online hate speech will make it easier to easily apprehend a person who shares sensitive information about public sector workers on social media with a view to hurting them and will be disciplined by up to three years in jail and a fine of EUR 45.000. The banning or deleting of pages spreading hate speech would now be made smoother and legal action accelerated. The bill expands what is known in France as the ‘neutrality clause,’ which forbids civil servants from displaying religious symbols such as the Muslim veil and holding political opinions, outside public sector workers to all commercial providers in public utilities, such as those working for transport firms.

 

French Members of Parliament held two weeks of heated debates in the National Assembly. People of Muslim faith interviewed outside the Paris Mosque and around Paris on the outdoor food market before the vote had hardly heard of the rule. “I don’t believe that the Muslims here in France are troublemakers or revolutionaries against France,” said BahriAyari, a taxi driver who spoke to AP after prayers inside Paris’ Grand Mosque. “I don’t understand, when one talks about radicalism, what does that mean — radicalism? It’s these people who go to jail, they find themselves with nothing to do, they discuss amongst themselves and they leave prison even more aggressive and then that gets put on the back of Islam. That’s not what a Muslim is,” he added.

 Three bodies of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) have unilaterally denounced the “charter of principles” of Islam, which reaffirms the continuity of religion with France. The three parties said that the Charter was accepted without the full consensus of the other integral components of the CFCM, including the provincial and departmental councils and the imams concerned. “We believe that certain passages and formulations of the submitted text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation. In addition, certain statements undermine the honour of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character,” the MilliGörüş Islamic Confederation (CMIG) and the Faith and Practice movement said in a joint statement. The bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim community and enforcing limits on nearly any part of their lives. It allows for interference in mosques and organizations responsible for the operation of mosques, as well as for the oversight of the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

 

It is a difficult time for the nation, which has also accused its protection bill of containing the press freedom. The law introduced aims at making it unlawful to post photographs of police officers in which it is identifiable by “malicious intent” However, law enforcement has criticized the government after the declaration by Macron of the development of an online forum to flag police brutality.

 

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/02/23/frances-controversial-separatism-bill/

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Why Has France’s Islamist Separatism Bill Caused Such Controversy?

 By Cailey Griffin  

  February 23, 2021

 On Feb. 16, France’s National Assembly passed a controversial bill meant to protect the country against the dangers of what the government deems “Islamist separatism,” the latest French effort to reinforce the country’s traditional embrace of a secular identity. The bill passed handily, by a vote of 347 to 151, though the left abstained and the far-right felt it didn’t go far enough. Next month, the bill will head to the Senate, dominated by conservatives, where the bill’s passage is pretty much guaranteed.

 

Despite plenty of centrist support, including from President Emmanuel Macron, the bill has proved controversial, especially with French Muslims, who feel the legislation—which doesn’t name Islam or Muslims—unfairly targets them. An official in the French president’s office said the bill “is not against Islam. It is against people who in the name of a wrong or reconstructed vision of a religion behave in a way contrary to the republic.”

The French effort is part of a broader push in other European countries. In Switzerland, a right-wing political party is pushing a proposal to ban facial coverings such as niqabs or burqas; a referendum is set for March 7. France was the first country in Europe to ban full-face coverings in public in 2011; however, other countries in Europe still have partial or total burqa bans, including Norway, Bulgaria, Denmark, Austria, Latvia, and Belgium.

What does the French bill do?

 

Broadly speaking, the bill is meant to reinforce France’s lay tradition by discouraging behaviour seeking to impose religious viewpoints in the public sphere.

First, the bill expands the “neutrality principle” forbidding not only civil servants but “all private contractors of public services” from sharing political opinions or even wearing physical representations of their religion, according to Al Jazeera. The bill also allows French authorities to temporarily shut down places of worship to stop preachers from spreading hatred. Lastly, French associations with specific religious ties that receive any “foreign funds will have to provide a strict accounting,” as reported by the New York Times. French associations that receive public funds will also have to demonstrate their commitment to the “principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and respect of human dignity,” the Times added.

 The bill would see any person spreading, with the intent to harm, personal information about public sector employees online fined 45,000 euros ($55,000) with the possibility of up to three years in jail. Any person who attempts to threaten or intimidate an elected official or public sector employee would be fined 75,000 euros ($91,000) and face up to five years in jail.

 

There are a few other noteworthy measures in the bill. Doctors will no longer be able to complete a so-called virginity check for patients before marriage—a common request among some Muslim families—and doctors still performing the checks would face a 15,000 euro ($18,000) fine and up to a year in jail.

 

If the bill isn’t explicitly aimed at France’s Muslims, as the government insists, why has it sparked so much concern in that community?

 Macron, when he introduced the bill in October 2020, spoke explicitly about tackling “Islamist separatism,” which he described as the act of France’s Muslim community to supplant civil laws with its own laws and customs derived from religious practice, essentially creating two parallel societies. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the bill “is not a text aimed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular,” but observers have noted that the behaviours he is trying to curtail are all linked to Islamism.

 Protesters took to the streets in Paris on Feb. 14, just before the bill’s passage in the National Assembly, arguing that it places a stigma on followers of France’s second largest religion. The legislation has rippled beyond France: Pakistani President Arif Alvi called the measure a “dangerous precedent” and urged the French government not to “entrench these attitudes into laws.”

 

What’s the impetus for this bill?

 

France, which has one of the largest Muslim populations of any country in Europe (outside Turkey), has grappled with the problems of integration and assimilation for decades, and Macron has made dealing with those social stresses one of the priorities of his presidency. In 2018, he told an interviewer that he wanted to “set down markers on the entire way in which Islam is organized in France,” according to Reuters.

But the bill really gained momentum after the brutal beheading last October of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, who was killed by a young Russian of Chechen descent who said he was upset that Paty had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class. Later that month, a Tunisian national killed three people in a knife attack in Nice, in southern France.

 At the February protest against the bill, one demonstrator told The Associated Press that “it’s not worth attacking a whole community because one person did a horrible act.”

What happens next?

 The bill will now head to the Senate at the end of March, where it’s expected to be approved, and become law within months. Even so, for France’s far-right, the legislation does not go far enough. Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Rally party and a perennial presidential candidate, said the legislation is too weak in fighting what she calls “Islamist ideologies.”

 https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/02/23/why-france-islamist-separatism-bill-controversy-extremism/

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First English, Then American, and Now Muslim Francophobia

By Liaquat Ali Khan

 February 24, 2021

 Francophobia has been a persistent part of French history, transmitted and modulated through several centuries. 17thcentury England constructed the first significant layer of Francophobia. The Americans may have borrowed Francophobia from England and then developed its version in the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Muslim world has begun to manufacture its variety of Francophobia. There are common themes in all three cases, though each version is era-specific. The French colonies and the French neighbours, particularly Germany, may also have views about France and its people, partly sharing the Francophobia accounts discussed here.

 

C-Phobias

 

In broad terms, phobias are sore beliefs about things, creatures, events, peoples, and nations. Prominent phobias involve persons and communities. Personal phobias are anxiety-producing states of mind, such as fear of heights, flying, and crowded spaces. By contrast, communal phobias (c-phobias) such as Islamophobia and Francophobia are disdainful stereotypes about race, religion, ethnicity, and nations. Racism, xenophobia, religious fanaticism, and supremacism nurture close bonds with c-phobias. Unlike personal phobias, no therapies are available to resolve c-phobias.

 As fables, c-phobias carry both elements of falsehood and truth. Exaggerations, miscomprehensions, misinterpretations, skewed observations, and plain lies constitute the organicity of the c-phobias. However, no enduring c-phobia is entirely untruthful. Almost always, the originators of the c-phobias see more truth in them than the target communities. Francophobia is credible for the English, the Americans, and the Muslims, but not for the French.

 C-phobias are cross-communal, as they arise from intense interaction between the phobia-originators and target communities. Cultural contrast, war, competition, and domination/subordination, all stretched over decades, grow mutually phobic misapprehensions. C-phobias become worldwide if a target community is globally influential. Thus, Muslim Francophobia is likely to acquire an international accreditation given the history of French colonialism, Muslims’ presence in France, and Muslim populations’ size and spread globally.

 

Furthermore, c-phobias are mutually solidifying. If the French people are Islamophobic, Muslims are likely to engender Francophobia. One phobia feeds the other. This cross-feeding was most spiritedly present in English Francophobia, as both the English and the French cooked stereotypes about each other, particularly during wars. This article does not examine the French views about the English and Americans. However, the current c-phobias raging between the French and the Muslims warrant a discussion of both sides.

English Francophobia

 Tim Harris, an English historian, explains that 17th-century England had little appreciation for the French people and portrayed them as cowardly, gambling, hypersexual, chomping “Excellent sallats.” That the French are “lewd and immoral by Anglo-Saxon standards” lingers as a modern stereotype. This English stamp on an entire nation originated in part as an adverse reaction to Louis XIV (1643-1715), the Sun King of France, a triumphant King. Louis XIV transformed France into an art-loving and self-respecting nation. The Palace of Versailles is the King’s outstanding contribution to world architecture.

 Unfortunately, a narrow-minded Louis XIV did not understand religion’s dynamics, particularly the emerging Protestant movement. He first used force to convert Protestants to the Catholic faith. Upon seeing failure, the King arbitrarily revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598), a contract with the Protestants and Huguenots guaranteeing religious freedom. Frustrated more and more in his uneducated mind, the King conducted merciless persecution, forcing thousands to flee France.

 The English perceived France as essentially a militarized state in which no laws bind the King and the institutions under him. The “love of the prince” permeated the French consciousness. The French adored totalitarianism, and to please first the Pope and later the King, the French judges ignored the written law. Judiciary was institutionally unfree as the King sold judicial offices as inheritable property. The English phobia toward the French political and legal system was an English yearning not to allow their kings to impose royal tyranny over the English parliament and judiciary.

 

American Francophobia

 

Unlike the settlers and immigrants from other parts of Europe, the French who migrated to America were more prone to “forget” their homeland and happily assimilate into the dominant Anglo culture and sensibilities. Except for Quebec in Canada, most French immigrants have willingly anglicized themselves, an argument that constructs American Francophobia: The French were happier to leave an oppressive country without religious and economic freedoms.

 Justin Vaisse, a French historian, argues that the negative American perception of the French crystallized in World War II, as France did not put up a good fight against the Germans. Paralleling the English view that the French are cowardly, American Francophobia did not take kindly the French appeasement of the 1930s. That the French inflate their charm and competence also receives tracking among American ruling elites. Senator John McCain (1936-2018) compared France with “an aging actress of the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn’t have the face for it.” House Speaker Newt Gingrich (the bigmouth) called France a “malicious” nation.

 American intellectuals on the left have little confidence in the French democratic order. There is a common perception among academics of all strains that the French laws and courts do not respect minorities. (I share that view). Oppression and disrespect for diversity are parts of Francophobia. American Jews migrating from France brought unpleasant memories, and many Jewish commentators accuse France of anti-Semitism. Even American restaurants joined Francophobia by changing “French fries” (a name that did not originate in France) into “freedom fries.”

 French sexuality continues to ignite Francophobia. An article in the Paris Review records the views of historians, scientists, sex therapists, and journalists invited to discuss American and French sexual sensibilities. A Stanford feminist scholar says that French love seeks fulfilment in adultery. “Flirting is a civic duty in France,” says another panelist. Older French women entice young men, even teenagers, and carry “repository of sexual history.” For the French, love is not an abstract ideal but “embedded in the flesh.”

 

American Francophobia is much softer than its English counterpart, perhaps because Americans did not fight any hot wars with France. However, as discussed below, Muslim Francophobia may tilt one way or the other, depending on how hard the French ruling elites come down on the French Muslims and how much violence Muslim immigrants commit to vent frustration over disrespect for their families and Islamic identity.

 Muslim Francophobia

 Muslim Francophobia is relatively new and under construction. France ruled North African and Middle Eastern countries as a colonial power for decades, leaving behind bitter memories of cruelty. The immigration of North African and Turk Muslims to France has prompted cultural conflict over Islamic hijab, homeschooling, mosque-building, and the Prophet of Islam’s cartoons. Islam is the second-largest religion in France, and no other European nation has a comparable size of the Muslim population. Sporadic violence perpetrated by Muslim juveniles invites stricter laws and state oppression.

 France is undoubtedly nervous about the influx of Muslims in its cities and towns. However, facts do not demonstrate that post-colonial France is anti-Islamic. In foreign relations, France distinguishes itself as a U.N. Security Council veto-holding member that supports reluctantly and sometimes opposes Muslim nations’ invasions and the global war on terror, provoking American ire. Ayatollah Khomeini, who brought down the Shah of Iran in 1979, planned the Iranian revolution’s final details “in a sleepy village outside Paris.” Nearly 10 Muslim-majority nations, mostly in Africa, use French as an official language, though the French troops in Mali infuriate many Africans.

 

Like everywhere else, the right-wing political parties in France exaggerate the threats Islam poses to French secularism. Jean-Marie Le Pen (1928- ) and his daughter Marine Le Pen have introduced a vicious concoction of Islamophobia and xenophobia, arguing that the French Muslims are corroding the French way of life. In 2015, Marine Le Pen compared Muslims praying in the French streets to the Nazi occupation, a case of hate speech for which she was tried but acquitted.

 Right-wing Islamophobia and the consequent Francophobia, as the synergistic opposites, bolster each other. French values and Islamic values, despite noted similarities, are portrayed as mutually exclusive. Right-wingers see French Muslims as stubborn foreigners, unwilling to dilute their faith in favor of secularism, a concept central to modern Frenchness. They maintain that France cannot accept a view of Islam that, in addition to faith, imports the Arab and Turkish culture.

 What is most worrisome is the spill-over effect of the right-wing ideology into mainstream politics. A significant majority of the French lawmakers are willing to pass legislation that would allow mosques’ surveillance and curb homeschooling. This legislation justified under the national security pretext will spawn a wide-reaching disdain against France. Already, Muslim governments have communicated their displeasure with the bill. Though not exclusively related to Muslims’ surveillance, a new Security Bill bans the filming of police activities. Such oppressive legal measures breastfeed Francophobia.

 Elsewhere, I have argued that anti-religious secularism, a formula practiced in the Soviet Union, is far less sustainable than non-religious secularism, a form adopted in the First Amendment. Secularism that allows religious freedom to individuals and communities but prevents state institutions from adopting any “official” religion is empirically superior to a model that condemns religion as non-scientific or anti-development. Like the Soviet Union, France will fail to impose anti-religious secularism under which both the state and ordinary individuals must be non-religious.

 

As the prior versions of Francophobia assert, the 21st-century French judiciary has been, for the most part, subservient to political forces (the King). Muslims have been unable to find relief in domestic courts. From trial courts to the highest courts, the judges uphold Islamic clothing restrictions and acquit politically influential hate-mongers. After exhausting local remedies, Muslims, their French sympathizers, and human rights organizations have challenged several discriminatory laws in the European Court of Human Rights, located in Strasbourg. This trend will continue as France legislates even harsher measures to suppress homeschooling, mosques’ surveillance and the Islamic notions of privacy and sexuality.

 If anything, Francophobia’s sexual notions will likely become part of Muslims’ critique of the French culture. The French sexuality tied to adultery will gain a wider negative press in the Muslim world, portraying the French as morally decadent, just as the Anglo-Saxons did in the prior centuries. The French laws prohibiting the Islamic hijab even in private schools will be propagandized as a state-sponsored policy to corrupt Muslim families and lure Muslim women into debauchery (what the French might call sexual enlightenment).

 Conclusion

 Francophobia has lingered over the centuries, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries. Among frivolous insults, Francophobia contends, carrying hints of truthfulness, that the French laws do not respect diversity, that the French judiciary is submissive to political forces, and that the French sexuality is unfettered, bordering compulsive sexual disorder. Though partly inflated, unfortunately, these claims are likely to become parts of widespread Francophobia. How badly the French ruling elites treat the French Muslims and how much violence the French Muslims perpetrate to protest their existential marginalization will further forge Francophobia.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/24/first-english-then-american-and-now-muslim-francophobia/

 Pakistan slams France's anti-radicalism bill, warns of 'serious repercussions'

The Wion Editorial

21 February 2021

In remarks that may worsen the already-strained ties between Islamabad and Paris, Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Sunday asked the political leadership of France "not to entrench the discriminatory attitudes against Muslims into laws", warning that such steps would lead to serious repercussions in the shape of hatred and conflict.

The president`s statement came in reference to an anti-radicalism bill passed by the French parliament`s lower house on Tuesday with an overwhelming majority that would strengthen oversight of mosques, Radio Pakistan tweeted.

"You [France] need to bring people together and not to stamp a religion in a certain manner to create disharmony and bias," Alvi told an international conference on religious freedom and minorities rights, according to The Express Tribune.

Alvi also stated that the French legislation was not in line with the United Nations Charter and contradicted the spirit of social harmony that Europe previously instilled in its society."Let there not be a retrogressive step for situations which arise out of animosity and for situations which are carried forward by the people who do not know about the real Islam," he said.

He warned that such a move would ultimately end up in a terrible scenario of hatred and hostility, The Express Tribune reported.

To label the entire religion in a different manner and to start taking precautions against an entire community sparks fears that will have very bad repercussions in the next 10 years, if not now, the Pakistan president said.

The Bill titled: "Supporting respect for the principles of the Republic" was passed by the French lower house on Tuesday. It aims to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from radical Islamists and to promote respect for French values.

The relations between France and Pakistan deteriorated last year after Pakistani leadership attacked the French government and President Emmanuel Macron for not condemning Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron`s top advisor, Emmanuel Bonne said that the relations between France and Pakistan are at a `historic low` amid a spat of terror attacks in the former nation.

"During this crisis, after the campaign against us, our relations with Pakistan probably are at a historic low. This is not exactly what we want, we assume it because our priorities and language are clear," he said during an event in New Delhi.

Last year after a gruesome killing of French teacher Samuel Paty near Paris, French President Macron defended the right of French magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish caricatures of the prophet.

Macron paid tribute to Paty, calling him a "quiet hero" dedicated to instilling the democratic values of the French Republic in his pupils. In a subsequent terror attack, a knife-wielding attacker killed three people at a church in the French city of Nice on October 29.

Following the brutal religiously-motivated attacks, Macron vowed to ramp up the fight against radical Islamism and terrorism, following which Turkey and Pakistan criticised his remarks. Macron`s remarks did not go well with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who slammed the French President, saying that he has "chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims".

Taking to Twitter, Khan had said, "Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when President Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation."

Protests erupted in many Muslims countries including Pakistan. Thousands of people rallied against France`s position on publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Activists from the far-right Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan TLP party took to the streets, calling for the Pakistani government to sever diplomatic and trade ties with France.

In October, the Pakistan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France and the "resurgence of Islamophobic acts" in some countries after a noisy session that witnessed the government and opposition delivering fiery speeches against each other.

https://www.wionews.com/south-asia/pakistan-slams-frances-anti-radicalism-bill-warns-of-serious-repercussions-365264

  President Alvi and French laws

By Pakistan Today Editorial

February 25, 2021

The domestic pressure from a section of the powerful religious lobby requires PM Imran Khan to increasingly cater to religiosity to prove his commitment to Islam. His claim to turn Pakistan into Riaste Madina, the decision to make Arabic language a compulsory subject in schools of Islamabad, banning 100 books in Punjab for profane and anti-Pakistan content, the announcement of Punjab Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 and sanctioning a stipend of Rs 10,000 per month to 20,000 prayer leaders in KP are all aimed at negating the damaging charges levelled against the PM by some of the religious parties. Meanwhile the measures introduced by PM Khan are contributing to the spread of religiosity and extremism.

Of late, Imran Khan’s mixing of politics and religion to gain support from religious quarters has taken a dangerous direction. Posing himself as the standard-bearer of Islam against the wave of Islamophobia the PM is taking positions that could create problems for the country. In a number of Western countries malcontents have attacked religious personalities held in high esteem by the Muslim community by making derogatory films or sketches which is highly condemnable. The FO has rightly censured such actions in the strongest terms.

Foreign policies are devised by countries keeping in view their long term interests and not on the basis of the political needs of a ruling party or an interest group. This is the reason why Pakistan has not allowed its relations to be affected by China’s policies concerning the Muslim community in Sinkiang, and rightly so. Why shouldn’t Pakistan adopt the same policy towards its Western friends and allies with whom it has close trade and investment ties and needs their help in dealing with international financial bodies and the FATF? Pakistan is already facing problems due to Omar Saeed Sheikh’s acquittal. The PM needs to consider if his appeasement of the TLP would not add to the difficulties the country is facing. Malala Yousufzai, the country’ symbol of struggle against terrorism, enjoys considerable prestige in the West. What was the need on the part PM’s spokesman to claim that Ehsanullah Ehsan’s threatening tweet to Malala Yousuzai was fake instead of letting the terrorist speak for himself? France’s Islamist separatism bill might be discriminatory but how many Muslim heads of state have come out against it publicly?

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2021/02/22/president-alvi-and-french-laws/

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